Week16n

CA Charting Project: Charting the Colts’ Offensive Line, Week 16

Last week, I grumbled that the Colts produce only 2.29 running plays per game in which the offensive linemen, tight ends and backs all succeed in their blocking assignments. In this week’s 23-7 shellacking of the Chiefs, Indy had only three such plays. Two were a 5-yard run by Donald Brown and a 6-yard run by Trent Richardson. The latter could have gone for far more if Richardson had made a better decision, but I’m not in the mood to beat that dead horse. It’s Christmas, after all (merry Christmas, everybody!).

The other play went like this.

The Colts’ running game is like a particularly complex slot machine. Each slot has a bunch of junk in it, and even when all the linemen hit sevens, the tight ends, fullbacks and receivers often land on lemons. Sometimes Pep Hamilton must feel like he’s pumping in quarter after quarter for nothing.

But every once in a while, those sevens line up, the running back makes the right choice, and bam. Brown was nine yards upfield and had a full head of steam before he was touched.

Not counting that play, the Colts ran for 84 yards on 33 carries in another mediocre run-blocking performance by the offensive line. Xavier Nixon, the undrafted rookie, had the best run-blocking score on the team, at just 75%.

Meanwhile, the pass blocking was generally sound for the third straight game. Nixon coughed up a sack, the first one a lineman has allowed since week 13, but they combined for only three pressures and five hits allowed against a team that came in with 43 sacks on the year. Unsurprisingly, Andrew Luck has seven touchdowns and one interception during the line’s three-game renaissance, after putting up five touchdowns and five interceptions in the first five games I tracked.

The line’s communication has really improved in these past few games. On this play, the Chiefs bring an overload blitz, with four rushers attacking the left side of the Colts’ offensive line. The Colts spot it, and everyone but the right tackle slides left:

 

The Chiefs rushers run into a wall of bodies (Trent Richardson lays a nice block on Eric Berry) and Luck isn’t touched as he fires a 17-yard completion to Da’Rick Rogers. Good stuff.

One more thing before I get to the breakdowns: Khaled Holmes, the Colts’ fourth-round draft pick this spring, has struggled to get on the field. He was passed over in favor of Nixon when the team needed a new guard, despite Nixon being a recent practice squad call-up.

On Sunday, Holmes played his first six offensive snaps of the season as a sixth lineman. He wasn’t good – he was outstanding. He succeeded on all three run blocks and all three pass blocks, and he moved his man back consistently. Here he is locking onto Frank Zombo on a Richardson run:

And here’s his foot, which is all that’s visible because he has moved Zombo out of the screen:

I’m cheating a little here; the camera zoomed in on the play, which is part of the reason Holmes isn’t visible. Still, it shows how effectively he kept Zombo outside. That happened every time Holmes was in. As it happens, Nixon screwed up a pull block on the play. That’s him helping Ricardo Mathews off the ground on the right. Mathews was the only guy Nixon managed to block.

Six plays isn’t nearly enough of a sample to judge Holmes effectively, and in fairness, Nixon was much better this week than last week. But Holmes looked terrific on Sunday. My only guess is that he’s having some difficulty learning the playbook and his assignments, because I’m not sure what else would be keeping him off the field.

DISCLAIMER: Grading offensive line play is inevitably subjective, since it’s impossible to know assignments and how the linemen are coached. These scores are based on whether the linemen appeared to succeed in their assignments, based on their apparent targets and how the plays developed. I assign all blocks a grade of ‘+’ (good block), ‘-’ (bad block) or ‘/’ (not involved, usually meaning the lineman couldn’t find anyone to block); ‘/’ plays are not scored. My charting table is included at the bottom of this post. I welcome criticism and commentary.

LT Anthony Castonzo
Run blocks: 20/28, 71%
Pass blocks: 36/42, 86%, two pressures, two hits
Total: 56/70, 80%

8-game totals
Run blocks: 119/145, 82%
Pass blocks: 322/358, 90%, two sacks
Total: 441/503, 88%

Castonzo had his hands full with Tamba Hali. He lost a handful of battles, including an early four-play sequence in which Hali beat him three times, notching two hits. But Castonzo kept his effort up and stayed disciplined, and he managed to get through the day without giving up a sack. He’s allowed only two sacks in the eight games I’ve tracked, one to Robert Quinn on that ugly sack/fumble/touchdown in the Rams game and one in the second Titans game. Two sacks allowed in half a season is pretty solid for a left tackle, particularly one with a quarterback who tends to hold the ball too long.

Unlike most games, Castonzo never settled into a long stretch of completed blocks on Sunday, though he did go 13/13 on one drive in the second half. His run blocking also wasn’t great. He generated decent movement when he locked onto a defender, but the Chiefs’ ends and linebackers were often able to get under him and into running lanes. For example, here he is on Allen Bailey, who’s about to drop under his arms and tackle Richardson. Notice how upright Castonzo is; he’s also reaching too far out and doesn’t have a good grip on Bailey:

Castonzo was 2/2 on pull blocks, helping pave the way for a 4-yard run by Richardson and a 5-yard run by Brown. I’d still like to see him in space more.

This wasn’t Great Castonzo or Bad Castonzo, both of whom have made a few appearances this season; it was so-so Castonzo. It was an underwhelming performance, but that’s mostly because he’s set such a high expectation level with his good games.

LG Xavier Nixon
Run blocks: 21/28, 75%
Pass blocks: 31/34, 91%, one sack
Total: 52/62, 80%

8-game totals
Run blocks: 36/58, 62%
Pass blocks: 59/66, 89%, one sack
Total: 95/124, 77%

With a week of practice with the starting offense behind him, Nixon was miles better than he was last week, when Joe Reitz’s concussion forced him into action after the first series. He’s about what you’d expect from a converted tackle: a good athlete who’s capable in pass protection, but not strong enough to move nose tackles in the running game. Dontari Poe bullied him at times Sunday.

Nixon’s allowed sack came when he and Castonzo were clearly expecting an outside linebacker to rush, rather than an inside linebacker. Nixon took far too long to recognize what was happening and was still tucking an end into Castonzo’s arms when Derrick Johnson blew past him. Brown might have been able to help, but he was too busy taking out a rusher Samson Satele ignored, as is tradition:

Still, Nixon has completed 89% of his pass blocks in two games, which trails Reitz (a whopping 97%), but is even with Hugh Thornton and well ahead of Mike McGlynn (85%). And his run blocking, abysmal last week at 13/27 (48%), was much improved. He also went a respectable 4/6 on pull blocks.

Nixon showed one troubling characteristic Sunday: he has a little too much Satele in him when it comes to his activity level. Whereas guys like Thornton and McGlynn are always looking for someone to block and helping other guys out when they’re unoccupied, Satele makes a habit of bouncing on his toes with his arms out and not doing anything. Nixon did that way more than he should have Sunday, possibly because he was nervous about letting a rusher get behind him. He finished with a team-high 10 “not involved” plays (Satele had eight, Castonzo two and McGlynn and Cherilus three each).

Here’s how that looks. Castonzo is in a bit of trouble with Hali out on the left, while McGlynn and Satele have Poe under control in the middle (Satele is blocking him with his ass, which he did a couple times Sunday). Nixon is free between them.

In this situation, Thornton loves to blast the end from the side and knock him over, but Nixon just stands there with his right arm out, watching Castonzo struggle.

C Samson Satele
Run blocks: 21/29, 72%
Pass blocks: 30/35, 86%, one hit
Total: 51/64, 80%

8-game totals
Run blocks: 80/120, 67%
Pass blocks: 267/300, 89%, two sacks
Total: 347/420, 83%

Satele started slowly on Sunday, missing three of his first four blocks and having trouble containing Poe. He improved as the game went on and completed 20 straight blocks at one point and 28 of his last 30. He was slightly below the surprisingly strong pass-blocking scores he’s put up lately, but he was still respectable there, and he was better than usual in the running game.

As always, Satele’s biggest problem was his noxious brain farts. He simply doesn’t pay enough attention to what’s happening around him. On this play, for example, he takes time away from his block on Zombo to look over and see that McGlynn has lost his block on Johnson:

It’s a shame McGlynn lost his block and all, but Satele is in no position to do anything about it, and when he glances away, Zombo frees himself and peels around Nixon to get a hit on Luck. Castonzo, on the right, has also missed his block, though Luck manages to avoid Hali. Only a desperate incompletion turns a sure sack into a relatively harmless two-man hit.

And that’s not even our WTF is Samson Satele Thinking (WTFiSST®) moment of the day. The WTFiSST® moment, chosen from among a few worthy candidates, comes on a delayed handoff to Brown. Due to poor play design and/or Satele taking too long to come off the line (it’s hard to tell which), Brown meets a safety in the backfield:

Brown manages to make that guy miss, and suddenly the play has real potential. Castonzo, after shoving Zombo (circled in yellow) into the backfield, heads upfield as an escort, while McGlynn blocks the middle linebacker. Satele is coming across Brown’s path, scanning for a defender.

Switching to the wide angle, you can see Brown (in red) has a chance at a big play, though Cherilus has lost his block (behind Satele, who is in blue). Satele has exactly one guy whom he should realistically try to block: Zombo.

You can probably guess where things go from here.

Cherilus is equally at fault here, and McGlynn also loses his block, but Satele’s whiff is truly horrific and deserving of WTFiSST® recognition.

RG Mike McGlynn
Run blocks: 20/29, 69%
Pass blocks: 35/40, 88%, one pressure, two hits
Total: 55/69, 80%

8-game totals
Run blocks: 93/131, 71%
Pass blocks: 229/269, 85%, two sacks
Total: 322/400, 81%

Though McGlynn’s percentages were decent, he didn’t have a great day, chipping in a few ugly whiffs. On the bright side, he hadn’t cleared 85% in pass blocking in any of the four games I charted prior to his one-game benching, but since then he’s gone 98%, 88% (as the center), 88%. He’s done a better job lately of adjusting to stunts, though he was beaten by one on the first play referenced in Satele’s section. When he does get beaten by stunts these days, they usually come from his left. He and Cherilus have developed decent chemistry at this point. For some reason, he and Satele can’t seem to get on the same page. That may be because neither of them are very good.

McGlynn is an erratic pull blocker (he went 2/4 on pull blocks Sunday). Pulling is an important part of Hamilton’s running game, so McGlynn’s lack of skills in that area can be a big detriment, particularly because Hamilton likes to pull the right guard to the left and the left guard to the right, so running behind their best blocker, Castonzo, often means pulling McGlynn behind him. McGlynn has no athleticism in space, so if he’s going full speed and a defender moves at all to either side, he has no chance of adjusting. Watch Hali matador him out of the way on this pull:

It’ll be interesting to see what the Colts do when Thornton, Reitz and Jeff Linkenbach get healthy. I’d love to see a Castonzo-Reitz-Holmes-Thornton-Cherilus line, or even Castonzo-Reitz-McGlynn-Thornton-Cherilus. It’s too early to tell how good Holmes will be, but putting him aside, I’d rank Indy’s interior lineman in this order: Reitz, Thornton, McGlynn, Nixon, Linkenbach, Satele. And there’s a big drop-off between Thornton and McGlynn.

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run blocks: 17/28, 61%
Pass blocks: 39/41, 95%
Total: 56/69, 81%

8-game totals
Run blocks: 106/146, 73%
Pass blocks: 313/351, 89%, four sacks
Total: 419/497, 84%

Cherilus was strong in pass protection, losing his block only twice and not yielding any pressures, hits or sacks. This is obviously the main reason Ryan Grigson brought him in; he consistently holds his own in pass blocking. For all the problems the offensive line has had, Cherilus and Castonzo have played every snap this season and have generally done a good job of keeping Luck clean. Back in the Manning/Dungy/Polian years, the Colts invested heavily in their tackles and center and plugged in the best guards they could find on the cheap. This team may be heading in that direction with its tackles for the foreseeable future, though they’re a long way from solving the center problem.

Though the tackles are good in pass blocking, however, as long as Cherilus is the right tackle, the Colts will probably never be a dominant running team. He simply doesn’t put in the necessary effort. He blocks for a beat, then lets go, often before the play is finished developing, as on these three blocks:

You can tell by his body language in all three plays that he’s no longer trying. Compare how he looks to the other guys in the frames. His effort on that last one was particularly lame. Notice how he’s standing with his arms at his sides while the play isn’t even past the line of scrimmage.

Cherilus isn’t lazy; he busts his butt on every single passing play and never gets beaten there for lack of effort. He simply doesn’t seem interested in the running game. As much as Grigson, Hamilton and Chuck Pagano love to talk about running the ball, Cherilus was an odd choice as their long term right tackle.


It was an excellent day of blocking for the Colts’ backs and tight ends. They went a combined 27/27 on pass blocks, the first perfect pass blocking score I’ve recorded for the auxiliary blockers. They also did some fine work in the running game.

Best of all, Jack Doyle was back! He apparently banished his evil twin, who had taken his place for a few games and sucks at blocking, back to Htrae. The real Doyle went 14/15 on run blocks and 9/9 on pass blocks.

Coby Fleener was 14/22 on run blocks – roughly par for him – and 5/5 on pass blocks.

As mentioned above, Holmes was 3/3 on run blocks and 3/3 on pass blocks. Play the man, Chuck.

Stanley Havili wasn’t used much compared to earlier in the season, possibly because Doyle was so effective. Havili was 4/6, all on run blocks.

Weslye Saunders was the only back/tight end who had a bad day, going 4/9, all on run blocks.

Richardson was superb, going 7/7 on pass blocks. Brown was 3/3.

Ricardo Mathews missed his one run block, though it wasn’t entirely his fault, as Nixon knocked him out of the way in a play referenced above.

Thanks as always for reading, and happy holidays to you all!


Play

Castonzo

Nixon

Satele

McGlynn

Cherilus

Brown -2 pass

+

Pulls, /

-

-

+

Brown 11 run

+

+

+

+

+

Havili 0 run

-

-

-

+

+

Drive total

2/3

1/2

1/3

2/3

3/3

Brown 2 run

-

Pulls, +

-

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Fleener 6 pass

+

+

/

+

-

Drive total

2/3

3/3

1/2

3/3

2/3

Fleener 2 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Hilton 6 pass

+

/

/

+

/

Whalen 8 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 1 run

+

+

-

2nd level, -

+

Incomplete

Gives up pressure

+

/

+

+

Rogers 17 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Hilton 6 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson -1 run

+

2nd level, +

+

-

+

Richardson 4 pass

+

/

/

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

-

+

+

Richardson 1 run

+

+

+

-

+

Incomplete

+

/

/

+

+

Drive total

11/12

9/9

6/8

9/12

11/11

Brown 2 run

+

-

+

+

-

Whalen 11 pass, nullified by off. Holding

+

Holds, -

-

+

+

Whalen 16 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 9 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Rogers 13 pass

-

+

+

+

+

Whalen 21 pass

Gives up hit

+

+

+

+

-9 sack

+

Gives up sack

/

+

+

Incomplete

Gives up hit

+

+

Gives up hit

+

Rogers 10 pass

+

/

+

+

+

Drive total

6/9

5/8

7/8

8/9

8/9

Incomplete

+

Pulls, /

Pulls, -

Pulls, +

+

Brown 33 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

2/2

1/1

1/2

2/2

2/2

Brown 1 run

+

+

-

2nd level, -

-

Luck 3 scramble

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

+

Hilton 31 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 2 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Whalen 7 pass

+

/

+

+

+

Richardson 6 run

-

Pulls, -

+

+

+

Havili 1 pass

+

+

+

Pulls, /

+

Richardson 4 run

-

-

-

+

-

Rogers 2 pass

+

+

/

+

+

Drive total

8/10

7/9

7/9

7/9

8/10

Brown 0 run

+

+

-

+

-

Incomplete, def. holding

Gives up pressure

+

Gives up hit

Gives up hit

+

Brown 51 TD run

+

Pulls, +

+

+

+

Drive total

2/3

3/3

1/3

2/3

2/3

Hilton 3 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 0 run

2nd level, +

2nd level, /

+

-

-

Incomplete, def. holding

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 1 run

+

Pulls, +

+

+

+

Richardson 6 run

+

Pulls, +

+

2nd level, +

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Luck 4 scramble

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 4 run

Pulls, +

+

Pulls, +

Pulls, -

-

Hilton 6 pass

+

/

+

+

/

Richardson 3 run

+

-

+

+

+

Doyle 6 pass

+

/

+

+

+

Luck 1 run

/

+

+

+

-

Brown 5 run

Pulls, +

+

Pulls, +

+

/

Incomplete

+

+

/

Pulls, /

-

Incomplete

Pulls, /

Pulls, -

+

-

+

Drive total

13/13

10/12

14/14

11/14

9/13

Brown 3 run

-

+

+

Pulls, +

-

Saunders 6 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 0 run

+

+

+

Pulls, -

+

Drive total

2/3

3/3

3/3

2/3

2/3

Brown 1 run

-

+

+

+

+

Whalen 15 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 3 run

+

+

-

+

-

Whalen 9 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 3 run

+

-

+

+

-

Whalen 4 pass

+

+

+

/

+

Incomplete

-

+

+

+

+

Drive total

5/7

6/7

6/7

6/6

5/7

Richardson 5 run

-

+

+

+

-

Richardson 2 run

-

+

+

+

+

Richardson 5 run

+

+

-

+

+

Richardson 3 run

+

-

+

-

+

Choice 8 run

+

+

2nd level, +

-

+

Drive total

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5


 

Castonzo

Nixon

Satele

McGlynn

Cherilus

Run total

20/28

21/28

21/29

20/29

17/28

Run percentage

71

75

72

69

61

Pass total

36/42

31/34

30/35

35/40

39/41

Pass percentage

86

91

86

88

95

Pressures

2

0

0

1

0

Hits

2

0

1

2

0

Sacks

0

1

0

0

0

Grand total

56/70

52/62

51/64

55/69

56/69

Grand total percentage

80

84

80

80

81

 

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